Around the Table is a three-question interview series from the Make Room email newsletter. Each edition features a conversation with a peer in the national security community to learn about their expertise and experience in the sector.
Jordan Hibbs is a foreign affairs specialist and attaché at the U.S. Department of Energy. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Energy or the National Nuclear Security Administration.
You’re currently serving as an attaché for the Department of Energy Overseas Corps. What have you learned so far from serving overseas?
As a civil servant, it is an honor to serve overseas on behalf of the U.S. government. Growing up, this was a future I could have never imagined for myself. From my time serving overseas, I have learned the importance of building relationships with foreign counterparts and the power of diplomacy. I have also enjoyed learning from my State Department colleagues on a range of issues. Working in an embassy usually entails a range of work that fluctuates day to day. I enjoy the opportunity to contribute to a range of meaningful ways in a fast-paced environment. Overall, it is an incredible privilege to get to advance the United States’ foreign policy interests by building relationships with people from other countries and finding common benefits.
How has your educational experience at both a community college and a four-year university shaped your career?
The ability to access higher education through community college changed my life. It was through my high school’s dual enrollment program that I was introduced to the wonderful opportunity that is community college. I was able to graduate early from high school and finish my community college degree by the time I was 18, and then finish my undergraduate degree and graduate degree by the time I turned 21. The opportunity to tailor my undergraduate degree through my experiences with Arizona State University’s Barrett, the Honors College opened my mind to the possibilities of a career in policy and public service.
Growing up I could not even visualize a pathway to a four-year university or graduate school—but community college gave me the pathways, knowledge, and skills to be beyond what I ever could have imagined. In honor of my experiences and to help other community college students to financially afford four-year degree programs, I created the Jordan A. Hibbs Scholarship Endowment at my alma mater—Arizona State —to help others interested in furthering their higher education.
What advice do you have for someone early in their career?
Three tips I’d give to early career professionals—(1) understand the value of mentorship, (2) say yes to opportunities, and (3) prioritize your mental health.
First, I always recommend finding mentors across the experience spectrum—including senior mentors, peer mentors, and being a mentor yourself! Throughout your career there will be many times you will need advice from others. Mentors are a great way to help navigate your career, big decisions, and challenging situations. I am so grateful to my mentors who have helped me and who are still helping me navigate my career and beyond.
Second, don’t be afraid to say yes to opportunities you may not think you are ready for yet. No matter how senior a person is, everyone has things to learn. Don’t let fear of not knowing everything keep you from experiences. There are so many great part-time professional development programs out there to help you figure things out along the way.
Lastly, prioritize your mental health. This is key to being able to show up and contribute in the ways you want to. Take the vacation you’ve been putting off, step away from your desk throughout the day, and find good people who build you up.
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